Costa Rica

Contributor: Alina Nassar


1. Are UAS considered as “aircraft” in your country?

According to the Operational Directive N° DO-001-OPS-RPAS, enforceable as of August 13th, 2017, UAS are defined as “aircraft and related elements that operate without pilot on board”.

2. Which bodies regulate the remotely-piloted and/or unmanned aircraft operations in your country, under what basic laws?

According to the Civil Aviation Act N° 5150 (in force since May 14th, 1973), the Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC by its acronym in Spanish) and the Civil Aviation Technical Council (CETAC) are in charge of setting the operational rules regarding the aviation activities.

DGAC issued the Operational Directive N° DO-001-OPS-RPAS, which establishes the guidelines to operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in Costa Rica. It is applicable to operations with civil RPAS that weigh less than 150 kg; RPAS with upper weight intended for firefighting, search and rescue activities; and RPAS model aircraft.

3. Is there a distinction between “State UAS” and “Private UAS”?

The Operational Directive does not distinguish between private and state UAS but establishes that it does not apply to State-owned RPAS for safety operations. However, public institutions that operate RPAS must obtain an operating authorization by DGAC.

4. Is there any distinction between public, leisure and commercial UAS? What regulations are provided for UAS operations in each group?

According to the Operational Directive there is a distinction between commercial, not commercial and leisure activities.

Commercial RPAS are used for business purposes other than commercial air transport, for remuneration or hire. It includes mapping, security surveillance, wildlife survey, and aerial application. . To be operated they must have a Certificate of Exploitation (CE).

Non-commercial RPAS are those used exclusively for private purposes, which do not lead to the public or mass dissemination of information obtained using RPAS. Activities such as scientific research, search and rescue and firefighting are also classified as non-commercial. They must file a request to obtain authorization from DGAC.

Public or State UAS are not mentioned in the Directive but according to DGAC, it is required to have an  authorization issued by this entity

As for leisure RPAS, they do not require an authorization from DGAC but they have the obligation to respect the limitations set by the Directive, such asnot to operate in areas outside buildings, towns, meetings of people outdoors; operate in uncontrolled airspace; only during daylight and clear meteorological conditions; at a minimum distance of 8 kilometers from any airport; and at a maximum height of 120 meters.

5. Is there a distinction, in terms of regulation, between completely autonomous UAS and remotely-piloted UAS?

The Operational Directive distinguishes autonomous aircraft from remotely piloted aircraft. However, the Directive is only applicable to RPAS.

Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Operations - Safety

6. How are UAS operations regulated in terms of safety?

DGAC is the authority in charge of taking the security measures needed to ensure the correct operation of air traffic. According to the Operational Directive, to operate RPAS, appropriate measures must be taken to protect them against acts of unlawful interference, including deliberate interference from the radio link. In addition, the necessary procedures must be provided to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing the control station and the storage location of the aircraft. RPAS operations must have taken the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the operation and the protection of people and assets. Article 12 of the Operational Directive establishes that in case of illicit interference to a RPAS, the operator must notify the Traffic Air Services of the situation to decrease the traffic conflicts with other aircraft.

7. Is the applicable regulation considering the rule of 1 UAS = 1 pilot?

There is not an express regulation on this matter.

Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") Operations - Licensing

8. What procedures are there to obtain licenses or the rights to operate UAS?

To operate commercial RPAS, it is mandatory to obtain an Operational Certificate (CO) and a Certificate of Exploitation (CE), according to the CivilAviation Act. The application must include, among other requirements, the following: personal information of the owner and the pilots; type of drone and its technical characteristics; description of activities that will be performed; financial statements; security risk analysis; Operations Manual; Maintenance Program; and civil liability insurance policy.

To operate noncommercial RPAS, the applicant does not need to go through the certification process, but they need to file the same informationmentioned in the above paragraph, except the Operations Manual and the Maintenance Program.

9. Are there any kind of taxes or fees regarding the licensing procedure?

The fees that have to be paid are the following:

Description Amount
UAS’ Certification for commercial operations US$1.874.02
Pilot’s Certificate of Suitability US$94.00

10. Is a Certificate of Airworthiness mandatory to operate a UAS?

Only big RPAS or those over 25 kg must have a Certificate of Airworthiness. They must also be registered in the National Registry.

11. Is access to the market for the provision of UAS operation services regulated and, if so, how?

Access to the market is not regulated.

12. What requirements apply in the areas of financial strength and nationality of ownership regarding control of UAS?

To obtain the CE the applicant must file its financial statements and demonstrate the company is in good standing. There are not restrictions regardingnationality of ownership of UAS.

13. Is drone transport permitted / regulated in your country?

There is not an express regulation on this matter. However, DGAC has already authorized a CE for delivery services of external cargo using RPAS.

Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") - Operations - Others

14. Is there a specific Data & Privacy Protection regulation applicable to UAS operations?

According to Article 11 of the Operational Directive, the owners and operators must comply with data protection and privacy laws in force in Costa Rica. If a complaint for the capture and diffusion of images without consent is filed, DGAC must initiate an investigation and the CE can be revoked.

15. Is there a specific control-link interference regulation applicable to UAS operations?

There is not express regulation on this matter.

16. Do specific rules regulate UAS manufacturers?

There are not specific rules for manufacturers.

17. What requirements must a foreign UAS operator satisfy in order to operate to or from your country?

Foreign RPAS operators must obtain a CE and a CO if they will be using it for commercial purposes:  DGAC will also request a copy of the authorization from itscountry of origin to operate RPAS.

18. Are fares or pricing of UAS operations regulated and, if so, how?

No. They are not regulated but the operator must register the fares at DGAC.

The Aircraft (“UAS”)

19. Must UAS be registered in any particular register?

Yes, there is a digital RPAS registry of DGAC, where all RPAS must be registered. As it was mentioned before. RPAS heavier than 25 kg must also be registered in the National Registry.

20. Who is entitled to be mentioned in the UAS register?

In the digital RPAS registry of DGAC, the holder of the permits is included in the data base. In the National Registry, the owner’s information is considered public.

21. Do requirements or limitations apply to the ownership of a UAS listed on your country’s register?


22. Do specific rules regulate the maintenance of UAS?

According to article 7 of the Operational Directive, the owner or operator must establish in the Operational Manual the procedures for RPAS maintenance. RPAS cannot be operated if they are not inspected or maintained according to the Manual, which requires DGAC approval. Also, the owner or operator must have a record of the maintenances with details of the parts that are changed and the software updates.

Operation Zones

23. Which are the operational and distance limitations for an aerial work with a UAS? Is there any kind of certificate or permission to operate beyond those limitations?

In a restricted area defined by DGAC in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), there shall be no UAS operating. In controlled airspace, the limit for operating is 400 feet above ground level, except in those areas permitted for operations and according to authorizations from Air Traffic Control. The operations near the aerodromes should not be over 400 feet above ground level and near a radius of 8 Km, with the following exceptions: if the operation is supported by an Operational Certificate and if there is a special permit granted by DGAC.

24. Are UAS obliged to take off from and/or land in specific facilities?

No. The Operational Directive establishes that RPAS are piloted from a remote pilotage station but do not limit the operations to specific facilities.

25. Which kind of airspaces are UAS permitted to operate with?

They are allowed to operate in spaces under 400 feet above ground level and in uncontrolled airspace.

26. Which airspaces are restricted for UAS?

The areas near aerodromes are restricted, in a radius of 8 Km and an altitude of 400 meters above ground feet.

27. Which zones are UAS operations banned?

The restricted areas are those contained in AIP, issued by DGAC.

28. Who provides air traffic control services for UAS in your country?

DGAC via the Air Traffic Control.

Liability and Accidents

29. Are there any special rules in respect of loss or damage to cargo?

RPAS registered before DGAC must have an insurance policy for civil liability that covers damages to third parties.

30. Are there any special rules about the liability of UAS operators for surface damage?

There are not specific rules and the Directive does not establish a minimum amount that is required for the civil liability insurance.

31. Is there a mandatory accident and incident reporting system and, if so, how does it operate?

All accidents and incidents must be reported to DGAC within 72 hours of the occurrence. The notification and report of the must be carried out in accordance with the provisions of RAC 13.

32. What system and procedures are in place for the investigation of UAS accidents?

All RPAS operators must establish a system to report incidents or accidents to DGAC, which is the entity in charge of conducting investigations where RPAS are involved.

33. Are UAS operators obliged to have insurance for their operations? If so, which are their main features?

According to Article 6 of the Operational Directive, operators must have a civil liability insurance policy that covers civil liability for damages to third parties that are caused during or due to the flight performance. The insurance policies must be issued by insurance companies authorized to operate in Costa Rica. As it was mentioned before, there is not a minimum amount required by DGAC for this type of insurance.

34. What is insured? The operator, the business or the aircraft?

The Directive does not specify, but the insurance covers the civil liability to third parties caused as consequence of the flight.

Financial Support and State Aid

35. Are there sector-specific rules regulating direct or indirect financial support to companies by the government or government-controlled agencies or companies (state aid) in the UAS sector? If not, do general state aid rules apply?

The small and medium-sized companies (known as PYMES) that are registered before the Ministry of Economy and Industry are able to obtain the CE for the first time without paying the fee for the certification process.

36. What are the main principles of the stated aid rules applicable to the UAS sector?

The government authorized the exception in the payment of the certification fees to PYMES that operate with drones, with the intention to support their commercial activity.

37. Are there exemptions from the state aid rules or situations in which they do not apply?

The benefit mentioned in the above answers applies only to PYMES.

38. Must clearance from the competition authorities be obtained before state aid may be granted?


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